Much like last July, this was a very well attended meeting. We had the pleasure of being able to return to polo pitch at Englefield Estate, being one of the most popular venues last year, we couldn't wait to go back. On arrival however, we found a very different pitch to the one in our memories. The recent heatwave had taken its toll, the grass once lush and green was brittle and brown, the earth baked so the dogs left dust trails in their wake. We did though feel lucky for cooler temperatures, and it was often overcast and refreshingly breezy.
With 9 stakes made up of 46 dogs, we knew our ailing lure machine(s) were going to be under pressure, so it wasn't without a little apprehension that we started the day. As the first round got under way, the lure just wasn't picking up enough speed. With several catches and re-starts we began to fear the worst, however with a bit of jiggery-pokery (and maybe a little black magic or secret dances to the lure Gods?!) the boys got it going again.
The short grass put less strain on the machine, and had it been longer I'm doubtful we could have run at all. As it was, our Slipper, George Sell had to give a long slip to ensure the lure was well away from the dogs. Unfortunately, this did encourage a few of the more seasoned dogs to cut the first corner, and therefore lose the vital run-out points.
Having started with the stakes for bigger dogs, we went onto the smaller bitch stakes, and the tumblers! These little ladies really like to throw themselves into it!
Ryemeadows Bramelia had a nasty tumble after hitting the pulley on the first turn. Laguna Lucie Lockett skidded several meters on her back after going in for the kill. In fact she started a trend that was seen many more times through the day, but made me wince each time.
Stand-out course of the first round has to go to Ryemeadows Roo and Winterfellin Rosa Belle, they ran so tight, it must have been a close call for our judge. It was an exciting one to watch, and blasted away the anxieties of the morning.
After a long morning we made it through all 9 stakes, making up a lot of time by being able to re-thread the lure much more quickly and easily on the short grass. Which reminds me, whoever provided the extra large, extra thick cushion for the back of the quad, thank you so much! Its nice not to dubiously be black and blue for days after!
We had a break for lunch, reversed the course and got the second rounds underway. Fresh back from her maternity leave, Harerunner Heartbeat gave it her all in her first judged run. She may have been just pipped by the little pocket-rocket known as Sandspring Sunset Gold, but she very clearly showed she was back and she meant business.
Round 2 went smoothly and during a quick break and a simple layout change by removing a few pulleys, I volunteered Penny Paynes Blue Grey to trial the finals course. I'm starting to think she's a bad jinx. After she trialled the finals course in June, our machine gave up and could only manage short straights. This month it started billowing smoke and flames, and poor Ivy badly ripped her pads. I don't know how they managed it, but while the machine was being resuscitated, the course was re-adjusted to lessen the angle of the turns and reduce the impact on the dogs' paws.
We had 6 finals to run, and by some miracle we got through them all. They were all had fought and thrilling to watch. Special mention must go to two first-timers, Ryemeadows Roo and Barmoll Bear's Boy who both won their stakes, and also our youngest member at just a year and one day, Moonlake Motorway Cop who was runner-up in his stake.
All in all it was a day of ups and downs. The ground was harder than we would like, but without the short grass we couldn't have got through the card. The setting was beautiful and weather perfect. But the sunshine meant I wore no jacket, therefore had no pocket in which to keep my phone, so missed getting pictures of all the scrumptious puppies I got to cuddle.
The arranged toilet facilities had a breakdown so we once more had to resort to a porta-potty in a horse trailer, but we were also lucky to be provided many trees for those preferring to covertly pee al fresco.
The tea and cakes were delicious as always, so thanks to all the bakers. Sapphira's Independence Day inspired strawberry, blueberry, marshmallow and brownie kebabs were particularly popular.
The dogs all ran brilliantly, so many close runs leaving the judge giving many long pauses before making his call. I think we had some of the best courses of the season. I hope all those who got sore paws or other injuries heal quickly.
We will soon be receiving our super-dooper new lure machine, which we will be trialling at our demo day later in the month, so it will be good ready to go at our next meeting. Thank you all once again for your patience, and for bearing with us these last few months, but we hope to see you again next time. There are only two meetings left to earn places in the season finals!
Can I also thank James Newman and Steve Raffis for their fantastic pictures. I'm sure all owners will be delighted to have these to look back on.
Please check back soon, as more photos from Englefield will be added over the next few days, and we will soon have the ground and judge confirmed for August.
See you there!